The end of the year is fast approaching, and with it comes the deluge of lists. Best movies, best books, biggest fail (thank you, FAIL blog).
The Man Booker Prize was awarded not too long ago to Julian Barnes for his short novel The Sense of an Ending. I was in the bookstore the other day, spending far too much money on books, and I almost picked it up. What stopped me?
I find the winners of the Prize to be a bit on the boring side.
Not just the winners. The other books that appear on the short or long list, or just the authors themselves. I read the book and I scratch my head thinking, “Really? That’s an award worthy book?”
I’ve read a number of books long or short listed for the Prize over the last few years, as well as a number of the authors other books. For instance, right now I’m reading Last Man in Tower, by Aravind Adiga, who won for his novel The White Tiger. So far, Tower has been…slow. I don’t know why. The hook shows up about 75 pages into it, which, for a literary piece of fiction, I find acceptable (hell, Ann Lamott buried the hook for Imperfect Birds almost three quarters of the way through the book). I guess it’s just the language…and the fact that I’ve been reading far too much brain-mush making books. I’ve found it makes it more difficult to process books that, well, don’t involve werewolves. Or vampires making poopy faces.
Of all the books on the long list or short list for the Prize in the last few years, the only one I’ve truly enjoyed was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. While not brilliant, it was far more creative and entertaining than anything else I read that year. Even Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller wasn’t as good as it could have been.
Literary prizes are weird animals. The PEN/Faulkner award has produced a few books I enjoyed (Bel Canto, War Dances). The Nobel Prize for Literature tends toward snooty nose-in-the-air authors (Mario Vargas Llosa, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Orhan Pamuk, to name a few of the most recent winners). Then you have prizes like the Orange Prize, given to women writers, or the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Not to mention all the genre-oriented awards, like the RITA Award (given by the Romance Writers of America) or the Nebula Award (given by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America).
My personal favorite? The Goodreads Best Books list. Voted on by the lovely users of Goodreads (myself included!) it’s, as Entertainment Weekly put it, like getting strong recommendations from a bunch of your friends. I’m looking forward to reading a number of books on that list (especially Murakami’s 19Q4).
Now if only I could just finish Last Man in Tower…